Botha’s future goes to a vote

Residents to decide whether to become part of County of Stettler

Botha residents will vote on whether to dissolve the village.

Alberta Municipal Affairs was asked to assess the community’s future and a report from the Village of Both Viability Review Team says the village about 15 km east of Stettler is “not clearly viable.”

About 35 people attended a public meeting on Wednesday night to review the viability report results and the community’s options, whether to dissolve and become a hamlet in the County of Stettler or remain a village and undertake extensive measures to restore its viability.

The three-person council opted to take the issue to a vote. It is hoped that will be held in the next month or two.

Village chief administrative officer Shawna Benson said the community is facing a number of challenges, including finding the money to complete all of the urgent infrastructure projects that need to be done and maintaining services such as snow plowing.

Not enough money comes in from utility bills to cover those costs and there has long been difficulty filling key positions in administration and council. The last two council elections saw no challengers and the village has gone through four top administrators in three years.

Dissolution appears to have considerable community support.

“This is a fairly amicable viability process. There is no hostility,” said Benson. “The villagers are more than happy to be going this route.”

Mayor Flo Iskiw offered reassurances dissolution does not mean the end of their community.

“Communities are not defined by where the administration building is located, but by the people, and the spirit that they create,” says Iskiw in a statement released on Thursday.

“Botha is a fabulous community – and whether we remain a village or dissolve into a hamlet, that fact will not change.”

As with many communities considering viability, property taxes and utility rates have been an issue. A survey of residents found 24 of 31 residents said those bills were not affordable at current service levels.

Asked if residents thought the village was viable for the long term, only seven said yes, 18 said no and six were not sure.

Becoming part of the county would mean lower utility rates and taxes. On a $100,000 comparison property, the annual tax bill as part of the county would be $720, compared with $1,080 if the village remained.

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